By Kevin Hogencamp
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An Albany State University professors’ group has issued a scathing report alleging fraud, grade changing, mismanagement, hostile employment practices and widespread state policy violations at the school. President Everette Freeman, in particular, is highly criticized in the report, which was issued May 10 to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents (BOR). The Albany Journal contacted Freeman on Tuesday for comment and is awaiting his response.
The ASU chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) says in the report that the “hostile work environment” at the university is the result of “the failure of the Albany Sate University administration to act in compliance with the statutes of Albany State University and Board of Regents policies in order to mask violations of federal-grant fiscal practices and coercive personnel practices.”
The AAUP asks in the report that the Board of Regents “conduct a formal and thorough investigation of our findings regarding concerns, complaints and perceived administrative violations brought forth by members of the faculty; and to examine documents submitted – and others not made available to the chapter – in order to verify their truthfulness and their compliance with ASU statutes, BOR policies, state of Georgia law principles, and federal law governing grants and contacts …”
“Albany State University has been seriously shaken by the current administrative practices of President Everette Freeman which have been brought before us by ASU faculty, staff, students, and administrators. As concerned faculty members of the ASU chapter of the AAUP, we wish to express our confidence (in) the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, and we hope that its members are sufficiently concerned about the future of Albany State University, a unit of the University System of Georgia,” the professors say in the report.
“The administration violated the rights of the faculty at Albany State University to share in the governance of our university by disallowing a system of checks and balances through a top down process, particularly in its reports to the many accrediting agencies, such as Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, National Council on the Accreditation of Teacher Education, Council on Social Work Education, and National Association of Social Workers,” the professors say in the report.
The report, which includes dozens of pages of documentation, notes with documentation that “highly placed” University System administrative personnel were notified of mismanagement of federal grant funds by ASU officials, but that their concerns were either ignored or “trivialized.”
The professors further state that evaluations show that “many members of the faculty consider (Freeman) and several of his administrators incapable of carrying out their duties in a manner favorable to the university stakeholders to the point that he does not understand he himself is our ‘chief academic officer’ of the university and not the vice president for academic affairs.”
The professors say that their report was precipitated by an unanswered Feb. 1, 2011 e-mail from the AAUP to Freeman asking for an inquiry into various conflicts, particularly within the College of Education.
“Because President Freeman refused to investigate allegations based on concerns by serious, senior members of the ASU faculty, the local chapter voted to open an inquiry into the problems within the COE. However, once the inquiry started, the local chapter found many other administrative problems and documents that have overshadowed our initial concerns.”
Following are the five areas of concerns raised by the professors and additional excerpts of the findings. The entire report and associated documents is on The Albany Journal’s website at www.TheAlbanyJournal.com
1. Lack of fiduciary responsibility in the management of various federal grant funds by ASU administrative personnel. The grants involving irregularities are the Research Infrastructure for Minority Institutions grant; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Science, Engineering, Mathematics, Aerospace Academy grant; the Center for the Advancement of Logistics Management grant; and Title II grants including the Long-Term Rehabilitation grant and other grants associated with the Social Work Program.
ASU staff Taryn Thomas says in records revealed in the report that she “revealed numerous accounts of misappropriations of funds, illegal and criminal activity …”, filed multiple complaints with ASU and University System officials, and was ignored. Further, “in the center for the Advancement of Logistics Management grant, the initial director was the university counsel and chief of staff, Ms. Sharon ‘Nyota’ Tucker. The dual position in itself offers a conflict of interest because as university counsel Ms. Tucker as chief of staff must make decisions which later she may have to resolve legally.”
The report also states: “The vice president for fiscal affairs, Mr. Larry Wakefield, does not quite understand compliance concerns with regards to federal grants and contracts, although these have been explained to him, so he has not made a concerted effort to police multiple violations of federal statutes … Lax administrative oversight or purposeful violations have led to multiple violations of federal statutes and these have been linked to clear patterns of misappropriation of funds and nepotism … The administration of the Health Care Opportunities Grant has been marked by egregious violations of nepotism, illegal shifting of funds, payment for duties not rendered, and failure to provide required documentation.”
2. Administrative and organizational matters. Freeman, the report says, “has effectively destroyed the administrative chain of command at ASU by making other members of his Cabinet equal to the vice president for academic affairs, thus badly confusing the administrative, fiscal, and academic protocols of senior administrators … President Freeman has assigned strictly academic responsibilities of his cabinet who lack the academic credentials to carry out these responsibilities successfully.”
“As a result of the mismanagement springing from the haphazard organization of President Freeman’s cabinet, ASU in the midst of two serious crises: (1) A grade scandal marked by the changing of over 100 lower grades to higher ones which is now under investigation by the director of internal audits at ASU – an official whose duty is clearly the investigation of fiscal and not academic matters; and (2) from a total of 344 incoming, first time freshman students, 41 percent were admitted by Vice President Virginia Stewart to the freshman class of 2010-2011 with SAT scores lower than the 830 – the university’s minimum requirement.
3. Administration of the College of Education: Hostile work environment, intimidation, and disregard for ASU statutes and Board of Regents Policies by Freeman, Vice President for Academic Affairs Abiodun Ojemakinde and Dean Kimberly King-Jupiter.
Dr. Kimberly King-Jupiter, the College of Education dean, “encouraged one chair of the COE, Kimberly Fields, to file an incident report with the ASU police department (whose interim chief is her own husband, John Fields) against another of the COE’s chairs, even though the dispute in question was caused by Dean King-Jupiter’s own aggressive behavior.” Further, 41 parents signed and delivered a petition saying “the undersigned agree … that mass confusion and a hostile learning environment has been created by Dr. Jupiter.”
Jupiter “has forced by intimidation staff members of her college to engage in personal services such as babysitting and running errands not specified in their contracts.” Also, Jupiter does not have a degree in education or a related field, “so she does not meet the requirements of the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities”; and Ojemakinde “is permitting Dr. Kimberly Fields to make important decisions about undergraduate and graduate students and their program of studies, although her contract is in violation of Board of Regents’ policies.”
4. ASU students’ ongoing opposition to Freeman.
5. Poor evaluations of Freeman and Ojemakinde.
“ASU Chapter evaluations for the last few years of President Everette Freeman’s tenure as president of ASU show that many members of faculty consider him and several of his administrators incapable of carrying out their duties in a manner favorable to the university stakeholders, to the point that he does not understand he himself is ‘our chief academic officer’ of the university and not the vice president for academic affairs.”